THE APOSTOLIC MANTLE – Introduction
Authority, Anointing and Sphere
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honour than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Hebrews 3:1-4
In the above verses, Jesus is identified as the Apostle and High Priest whom we confess as Lord of our lives. He is also identified as the Builder of all things. He abides in believers and chooses to reveal Himself in different ways in different people through a variety of manifestations of His Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 14:12; Ephesians 4:12).
Each believer is anointed (empowered through impartation) to do certain tasks within the will of God and the kingdom of God. Jesus, for example, was authorized and anointed to preach the gospel to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favourable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19). His sphere was to the entire world. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16)
Jesus began a process of Kingdom delegation and multiplication of ministry which continues today. He gave some as apostles (Ephesians 4:11). God has appointed in the church first apostles (I Corinthians 12:28). He gave them clear understanding of their authority, sphere and anointing. It is these three areas of apostolic ministry we want to look at over the next few days.
Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” (Matthew 10:1, 5-6).
It was quite clear to these twelve, who would become the apostles of the Lamb, that they were authorized to preach the Kingdom, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Their sphere was clearly delineated: the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Their anointing was confirmed as people responding to the gospel were healed, raised from the dead, cleansed and set free. The apostle is to understand his authority and sphere, and to trust in the anointing.
What is the nature of spiritual authority. Jesus contrasts spiritual authority with gentile authority that served:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28).
Egocentric dictators who rule by intimidation, coercion, pressure, manipulation, have no place in the kingdom of God. Apostles do not lord it over God’s heritage. They exercise themselves in serving, not in authority. Their God-given authority flows as they serve.
Jesus is the prototype of apostleship. True apostolic authority is proven by laying down one’s life in serving those within your sphere of authority. A true apostle is simply a man of flesh, a clay vessel, through whom Jesus manifests Himself as Apostle. Whether He is being a “lion” or “lamb” at the moment, selfless love will be the motivation, humility will be the attitude, and servitude will be the methodology. Today’s apostle “washes the feet” of those who follow him and to those to whom he ministers.
He is a messenger who is sent by God to those who have ears to hear. The apostolic vision will move the hearts of people to follow. God’s authority is inherent in His Word, and the anointing to build His house is upon His messenger, the apostle. Those whose hearts bear witness to the message and the messenger willingly submit to the ministry. Their submission makes spiritual authority function properly.
Jesus says this regarding a shepherd of the sheep: When he puts forth his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10:4). He goes ahead of them and they follow; he doesn’t get behind them and drive them.
The origin of apostolic authority
Deacons and elders were appointed and ordained by apostles. (Acts 6:2-3; 14:23; Titus 1:5.) Within the local church, elders delegate authority consistent with designated responsibilities. Who appoints and ordains apostles? What is the origin of apostolic authority?
“And He (Jesus) went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed the twelve.” (Mark 3:13-14)
I”t was at this time that he went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles.” (Luke 6:12-13).
Jesus appointed the twelve after much prayerful agreement with the Father, who sees the hearts of all men. These men were a major focus of Jesus’ prayer recorded in John 17. Jesus totally subordinated His will. He came to do His Father’s will. He appointed whom He wanted because He wanted whom His Father wanted. Perfect unity and harmony prevails among the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are One, and apostles are to be one with Them.
Paul testified that he was an apostle – not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead – (Galatians 1:1). He clarified who gave him his authority, and for what purpose: “For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you…” (2 Corinthians 10:8). Paul directed Titus, a young apostle under his oversight, to exhort and reprove with all authority (Titus 2:15).
He reminded Timothy, the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (I Timothy 1:5). Such counsel can keep the young apostle’s ministry consistent with the true nature of spiritual authority. Divine authority is marked by love from a pure heart.
However, we need to observe that divine appointment to divine authority needs the witness of the church:
“While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 13:2-4).
The word “apostle” simply means “sent out one.” And, when a church receives the ministry of an apostle they, in time, share the apostle’s anointing and become apostolic – sent out to minister outside the building and outwardly focused on the lost, the least, and the last.
So, in Acts 13 we see that although clearly called and appointed by Jesus Christ and God the Father, and sent out by the Holy Spirit, the local church laid hands upon them and sent them out. They were commended to the work by the presbytery and local church and reported back to the presbytery and local church.